Next generation steps forward as Women in Property student awards shortlist is announced

Now in its 11th year, the Women in Property National Student Awards are open to second-year - or third-year in Scotland - female students that are studying on a built environment course.

The aim is to recognise excellence, encourage up-and-coming talent and nurture the role models of tomorrow.

The shortlist for the 2017 awards has just been announced, and to understand what winning the main prize means to the individuals involved, Property Week caught up with last year’s national winner Yasmine Lunn.

How did you come to decide on a career in property?

I did a mixture of A levels as I was unsure what path I wanted to go down. I wanted to find a way to bring the subjects together with the career path I decided to take.

For me, the best option was property. My dad already works in property, so he was able to say: “Come into the office, see if you like it.” He’s a surveyor in Sheffield and does a bit of everything, so I was able to go around the department. I loved it and started my degree in real estate at Sheffield Hallam. I got a placement job sorted in my second year for my third year, which I’m doing now, working for GVA in Manchester.

What are you doing at GVA?

I’m in the valuation department. We deal with a range of valuations, usually for the banks. For example, we do loan security valuations and accounts valuations. We look at offices, retail… it’s a mix, really.

It’s quite exciting to be a part of Manchester at the moment with all the ‘northern powerhouse’ stuff that’s going on. There’s quite a lot of residential development in the city centre, with foreign investors paying a lot of money for properties. It’s exciting to get my teeth into it.

How hands-on is it?

I think at university it’s a bit confusing because it’s all on paper and you don’t really know how it works. I questioned what I was doing, but everything comes together on your placement. I’ve been doing valuations, development appraisals - all different kinds of things. I’m going out on site doing inspections with senior directors and I’m working with the final figures as well. I’m getting involved with every stage in the process, which has been really good.

Do you have a specific mentor at GVA?

Yes. We work in a department of about 10 people and I think everyone helps each other out. I have a counsellor and an assessor, so I’ve had a lot of help from them. I’ve also got my two bosses, who are steering me on the right path.

Do you think you will stay in the valuations discipline?

I’d love to because I think it’s really interesting and you learn something new every day.

No valuation is the same as the next and it’s an art; not a science. At the same time, it would be good to get a grip on what other departments do because everything is so varied. My knowledge of what other people do is quite limited and I’d quite like to build on that.

Is that something you’d like to do after your final year at university?

Yes. I’ll be applying for jobs from September. I’ll apply for valuation, but I’ll apply for anything else as well. Any experience is going to be a benefit.

And what are your longer-term ambitions? Where would you like to get to in your career?

I think for me, I see my directors and senior directors as one of the reasons I got involved with Women in Property - you don’t see many women at that level. I would love to get to that sort of level and I would love to be mentoring and assessing people like me who didn’t really know what they were doing when they came into the world of property. I’d like to get to that stage.

I’d also like to get involved with development. That’s a path I’d like to go down - to have my own developments. Property is one of the biggest assets people own.

Can you tell me about how you came to win the Women in Property gong?

It starts off with universities encouraging students to go in for the first round, interviewing a couple of students in the year - and then each course for each year has its candidate.

I was interviewed by my university, which was great because otherwise I wouldn’t have known about it - I hadn’t heard of Women in Property at that point.

After that stage I went to the regional interview, which was in Leeds with Cushman & Wakefield. I really enjoyed that. I’d never done an interview before, so I think it really helped me ease into the world of work.

What sorts of things were they asking you?

We were asked to present a piece of coursework that we’d done. But as much as it was about the coursework, it was also about how we presented it and how we spoke - how you could link that piece of work to your character and the industry. I presented a marketing strategy for a really small estate agent, so it was really open-ended and I could compare it with the real world.

Obviously that interview went well.

It was great. Actually, I met someone there and now I live with her on placement here in Manchester. So it went well in a lot of different ways. Then the final was based on an interview - there was no presentation. We had to answer questions about the economy and the property market and were also asked about our general views on how we can change some of the issues around women in property. It was both technical and non-technical.

How was the awards ceremony itself?

The ceremony was at Claridge’s and I got to bring my mum, which was great. She’d never been to anything like that in her life and she probably had one too many glasses of champagne. But it was great and I’m still in touch with all the girls I met - we have a group on Facebook.

It’s been an excellent experience, not just for the opportunities it gave me but also to network and meet people, whether that’s future employers, other candidates or companies that you’re going to work alongside for the rest of your life.

How do you think property can encourage more women into the industry?

I think the thing that I pay a lot of attention to is that there is always going to be a time lag on these things. Years ago, no women entered the industry but now we’re seeing that happen. But they’re not going to walk in as a director - it takes time to get to that level. I think it works both ways. We need to get more women to enter the industry by approaching schools, but people also need to know that girls can do the job just as well as guys. I think we’re getting there.

The Women in Property National Student Awards finalists 2017

This year, 44 universities nominated students - a total of 105 young women, of which 13 are representing their regions at the national final. Here are the finalists alongside their discipline and the university they represent.

Central Scotland:

Alice Gama, quantity surveying, Heriot-Watt University

Sarah Dar, civil engineering, University of the West of Scotland

Midlands:

Agnieszka Vernon-Smith, building surveying, Nottingham Trent University

Northern Scotland:

Sophie Curran, architecture, University of Dundee

North West:

Kimberley Airey, environment and planning, University of Liverpool

South East:

Rebecca Freeman, building surveying, University of Westminster

Joanna Hartnell, civil engineering, University of Surrey

Niamh Brady, city and regional planning, Oxford Brookes University

South Wales:

Gabrielle Wheeler, project management surveying, University of South Wales

Caitlin Mitchell, civil and coastal engineering, Plymouth University

South West:

Sarah Paxton, architecture, Plymouth University

Yorkshire and North East:

Lauren-Mae Crofts, building surveying, Sheffield Hallam University

Demi McCoid, architecture, University of Lincoln

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